5 Questions for Diane Holland
Chief Financial Officer
Surely there’s no better trial-by-fire to prepare oneself for a career in finance than by keeping tabs on the spending of a rock band. It certainly worked for Schematic’s chief financial officer, Diane Holland, who managed and audited the London-based alternative rock band Headcleaner in the mid-1990s. In her adventures with Headcleaner, Holland traveled across Europe, successfully avoiding any regrettable altercations with overzealous groupies. “People get really excited about music they love, so I’ve met some characters, but nothing unfortunate,” she says.
While Holland later parlayed her experience at EMI records into tracking FOX Television’s financials, she’s certainly still on top of the music world. She owns both an iPod Nano and Shuffle (the latter is “for a walk in the hills”), and playlists the likes of Goldfrapp, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and LCD Soundsystem.
So we asked Holland which is easier: Auditing the bands at EMI or keeping track of Schematic’s balance sheet? “No contest,” she says. “Schematic’s balance sheet is pretty straightforward. Auditing record labels is much tougher as auditors are often in the position to unravel a big mess. Oh, the things I have seen…” Sadly, she refused to elaborate on what those things were.
What was it like working with Headcleaner in the ’90s?
We didn’t find much mainstream success in the UK at the time, as Britpop was big and the British weren’t into a heavier sound. It was quite the opposite in continental Europe. We would go over to France, Italy, and Germany to play massive festivals only to come back to the UK to find ourselves booked into a small pub somewhere. So we found ourselves on ferries, tour buses and planes across Europe more often than not.
How are creatives like rock stars?
It is true that creatives can be like rock stars. They both have the ability to bring beauty and art into the world. Our creatives constantly push the envelope of what we’re seeing on the Web. Whenever I see new work from Schematic, I am inspired. Similarly, with musicians, the music they create can be awe-inspiring. Not everyone has such an extraordinary gift.
The work Schematic is doing in the automotive industry and on new mobile platforms, like Android, is pretty awesome. There’s an amazing amount of untapped potential out there for marketers in emerging technology, and consumers are going to continue to be amazed by what they see happening on all of the various digital screens they use in their day-to-day lives. Also, we are a part of Yahoo and Intel’s Widget Channel Initiative, which is great. The ability to bring content and community features, not to mention personalization, to the TV viewing experience is a big step toward the seamlessly converged world we all dream of around here.
Do you have a favorite song about money?
The Beatles have a few good ones — “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Can’t Buy Me Love” or “You Never Give Me Your Money.” And they knew how to make it, that’s for sure, as I saw firsthand when at EMI.
What was the oddest thing you’ve had to expense?
Back in my music industry days, there were a few inappropriate evening entertainment expenses. Not so nice. I’m pretty by-the-book and this industry is much less extravagant. There have been a few amusing attempts but nothing over the top.
Lastly, a mandatory economic crisis question: What’s your financial advice for agencies?
Although dealing with a down-turned economy is riddled with various challenges, it is also an opportunity to review processes, evaluate the way things are done, and become stronger on the other side. It’s important to consistently think about what makes sense for the company’s long-term growth, not just short-term profits. For Schematic, we are continuing to invest in our people, foster a great work environment and focus on creating great work for our clients. Innovation can be a driving force behind revenue growth and there is a distinct opportunity for companies to explore new ways of doing things while being fiscally responsible. It’s about taking calculated risks that are in line with the overall business strategy.